Within a few minutes of the first meeting of the year, the Carmel City Council voted unanimously to turn Carmel into a second class city.
A heavily debated issue in the mayoral and council elections in May, this means that Carmel will, in four years, replace its elected clerk-treasurer position with a mayoral-appointed city financial advisor and an elected city clerk. It would also increase the size of the city council from seven to nine members with one more council district and one more at-large seat in four years.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard advocated in favor of this change during his election in May. Challenger Rick Sharp opposed the move because he said an elected clerk treasurer provided a watch-dog role and he worried that the mayor could appoint a “yes man.” Brainard won his sixth term — and six of the seven councilors he supported also won — and so he felt comfortable moving forward immediately at the very first meeting.
The council suspended the rules, voted on and passed this issue once it was introduced. The mayor suggested that he and the council sign the ordinance immediately after the vote instead of waiting until the end of the meeting so it could take effect immediately.
By immediately enacting the ordinance, this allowed the city council president to preside over council meetings instead of the mayor. The previous rules called for the mayor to preside over and lead each meeting, but the council had been unaware of this provision and meetings had been led by the council president.
Longtime city councilor Ron Carter, who was elected the same year as Brainard, was unanimously selected as council president without any challenger. He presided over the rest of the meeting. Later in the meeting, it was unanimously decided without debate to allow the city council the ability to give the council president higher pay than the rest of the council, in essence a bonus for the position’s extra work. That amount would be decided on an annual basis, and the council president cannot serve in that role two years in a row.
Outgoing council president Rick Sharp spoke out against this move at the previous meeting, saying he thought there isn’t as much extra work for the position to necessitate extra pay.